21.3.15

Saxon warriors crush Viking invaders and plant Yew trees to celebrate

And now a few thousand years later we have Kingley Vale a rare Yew wood climbing up the chalky walls of the South Downs.

What no Moors ......... alas no ........... today I stayed local (13 miles from home) for a gentle walk around a beautiful and rare gem hidden in the folds of the downs.



12,000 Years ago at the end of the Ice age Kingley vale slowly repaired from under the crushing ice sheet that covered it. Slowly nature, with her infinte patience, re-populated the land with both beast and foliage.

Back then the area would have been part of "The Wildwood" and a tanlged mix of woodland, scrub and grasslands. Here deer and Aurochs roamed, herds of wild horses would be seen grazing the grasslands as well as predators like wolves and bears not to mention our own ancestors.






 Later in the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages early farmers cleared much of the wildwood and opened the land up for grazing - they also built hill forts and raised burial mounds such as the ones found at the Devils humps.

                                                              







The Romans came and built a temple on the hill ...........

And then in AD 895 the Norsemen came. Legend has it that a viking raiding party travelled through the vale on its way back to their ships. The Saxon warlord from near by Chichester mustered his Thegns and warriors and cut the norsemen off in the valley bottom.

The Saxons had a great victory and by way of celebration and memorial plants a grove of Yew trees at the site of the battle.


Let sleeping Dragons lay ............ 
                                 




War came the vale once more centuries laters as British and Canadian troops mustered in and around the south downs prior to the D-Day lands and Kingley Vale was no exception. The Yew woods and the skys above the vale were often the training grounds of Spitfire pilot and it is said that the Yews still bear the scares of Spitfire straifing runs ........






Memorial to a downed POLISH Hurricane pilot who died in the vale after a dog fight with a German 109

                                        

What a cracking little walk - a journey through history with some amazing views across the Solent and the Downs.


9.3.15

More from the Moors




Well dear reader, with a few days off at hand I decided, once again, to head off down to the Moors. Like a limpet to a rock I appear to be drawn back to this magical place. Why? As a self confessed Nemophilist I am not sure I can tell you. 

Certainly as a bushcrafter I wonder.

And yet, for me there is a magic there, a happiness I haven't felt for a long time. Wild and windy the Moors seem to have captured both my heart and my imagination.


This trip also had an ulterior motive - I have to confess as I wanted to test out a couple of new rucksacks and a new compass (reviews to follow) - but none the less it was as much for pleasure as anything else.


The sacks and compass were bought for the Tour De Mont Blanc hike I am planning for my 50th next year and as such I wanted to train with them all - to iron out any problems and to ensure I was happy with the kit I would be carrying.



As I say reviews of the items will follow - suffice to say for now that I am happy with them.

After much reviewing and list making the below is the basic kit I think I will take on the tour with me - and as such, is also the basic kit list I will train with for the rest of this year and two thirds of next year as I build up to the trip in September 2015.



In my Rucksack (65 - 85 litres) I pack the following


  • 3 season sleeping bag
  • bivi bag
  • Therma rest
  • Re-usable space blanket
  • Poncho
  • First Aid Kit
  • Wash kit 
  • Billy can with folding cups and Gas stove 
  • Brew kit and rations
  • 1 litre Flask
  • 1 litre Bladder
  • 1 litre Stainless Steel Water bottle
  • Knife and folding saw
  • Tinder pouch - containing tinder - lighter - fire steel - paracord.
  • 20m cordage - sharpening stone - Head torch
  • Radio
  • Map and guide book
  • Sunglasses and sun block
  • Walking poles
My spare clothing - 
  • 2 x socks
  • 1 x swimming trunks
  • 1 x Ullsfrotte zip neck top
  • 1 x Fleece Hoody
  • 1 x Down Jacket
  • 1 x Goretex Jacket
  • 1 x Wool mitts
  • 1 x Mountain cap
  • 1 x Shemagh
  • 1 x Woolly hat
  • 1 x flip flops
Carried On person - 
  • Map and Compass
  • Swiss army knife, small torch and whistle
  • Buff
  • Spoon
  • Lighter
  • Fresnel Lens 
  • Roamer 
  • Wallet
  • Lip Salve
Worn - 
  • Boots
  • Gaiters
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Craghopper trousers (with braces)
  • Merino t-shirt (base layer)
  • Ventile Jacket (soft shell)
  • Base ball cap 
Travel items

  • Passport
  • Tickets
  • Contact and Emergency phone Numbers
  • E111 Card
  • Phone




Quite a lot of gear but with a potential 10 day hike across the French, Swiss and Italian Alps planned I think its pretty good.



I digress ......... once more onto the Moors ........



The area visited this time was around the area of Princetown. The weather was good, the sun was out most of the time and the wind wasn't to harsh (except Saturday) so by Dartmoor standards it was tropical!! It certainly was great walking weather that was for sure.


Right from the off however things went a little awry - as I took the wrong track out of Princetown ......... lesson learnt as complacency can be a dangerous trait!! With Dartmoor covering some 368 square miles navigation is important so if your going to screw up doing it early at least means you recover your route quicker .... Fortunately for me I did and after a healthy portion of humble pie I was back on track and less cocky.



My circular route took me through a magnificent wooded area - earlier than expected i might add. As you can see from the above picture the woodland was amazing. The trees dwarfing me and lending the whole place a peaceful stillness. I could almost imagine myself in the Algonquin or some such forested scene from the Last of the Mohican's. Truly beautiful.


As a added bonus, or maybe a gift of the forest Goddess Freyja a small copse of young pines was found with a convenient opening ideally suit for a biving traveller. This became home!! And even a small stone fire place was provided.















Sleeping giants - oddly it appears the Moors dont have a recorded or oral history of stories about the rocks which cover it. By this I mean tales of Trolls and similar although I have found out about the Piskies. Trolls, which are common to the Norwegian Fjells seem strangly abcent from the moors yet to me the rocks speak otherwise, and I have to say laying upon the rocks, with Odin's Raven's Huginn and Munnin circling very low above me I quickly found my mind wandering off into childish tales of rock trolls and their friends the Dartmoor ponies ..........


Strange things can happen to a man on the Moors ........... and this trip, like my last, was a fantastic adventure.

PISKIES

THAR be piskies up to Dartymoor,
An' tidden gude yew zay there bain't.
I've felt 'em grawpin' at my heart,
 I've heard their voices callin' faint,
I've knawed a man be cruec down —
His soul fair stogged an' heavy-like —
Climb up to brawken Zaddle Tor
An' bare his head vor winds to strike.
An' all the gert black mawky griefs,
An' all the pain an' vog an' grime,
Have blawed away and left en clear
Like vuzz-bush vires in swalin' time.
An' what med do so brave a thing
As thic' white spells to tak an' weave,
But li'l piskies' vitty hands,
Or God Himself as give 'em leave ?
But tidden Him would stop an' spy
From Widdicombe to Cranmer Pule, T
o maze the schemin' li'l heart
Of every Jacky- Lantern fule !
For mebbe 'tis a lonesome rod
Or heather blooth, or peaty ling,
Or nobbut just a rainy combe — T
he spell that meks 'ee tek an' sing.
An' this I knaw, the li'l tods
Be ever callin' silver faint.
Thar be piskies up to Dartymoor,
An' tidden gude yew zay there bain't.


17.2.15

Out on the whiny windy moors





Well dear reader I am back .............. back from a great long weekend and some brilliant hiking across the hills and vales of a wet and windy Dartmoor.




Yep, out on the whiny windy moors, that good ol Kate Bush song Wuthering Heights was on a mental loop playing in my head most of the time and was very fitting. The weather was very much the windy wet weather you'd expect on the moors - sadly the snow had melted so it was sodden under foot but alas such is life.




According to a local (bit of a nutter in my book) the weather was balmy - as 70 mph winds buffeted me around the Tors ...........nothing worse than being buffeted around the Tors I might add! Ok I may be slightly exaggerating as the winds never got that strong (but close) the weather was however not something to be taken lightly and easily bad enough to kill the unprepared .... Mountain exposure is a real and constant danger people and I point this out just in case my one reader decides to pop down the Moors in a pair of shorts and a snazzy cotton T-shirt ............ and yes I even saw one chappy hiking in Jeans so not really that much of a stretch.




Anyway I digress - the weather was typically Moorish - typically February and typically British!




Now here's a interesting observation, as I have a Scandinavian reader somewhere, the British moorland strikes me as very similar to the Swedish or Norwegian Fjells - in fact the thought struck me that a Fjellduken's camouflage would blend in very well around the Moor's hilly rocky Tors. Wikipedia even states --( A fell (from Old Norse fell, fjall, "mountain"[1]) is a high and barren landscape feature, such as a mountain range or moor-covered hills. The term is most often employed in Scandinavia, the Isle of Man, parts of northern England, and Scotland. )




So there you go - I could have been hiking across Sarek just as easily as Dartmoor. Just putting that thought out there ............. LOL! The rocks themself (i am reliably told) are Granite and are also made up of Feldspar (a soft component) and Mica and Quarts (hard components) they were formed 300 million years ago and for 50 million years have been on the surface of the moors ..............





So the trip itself was great, hiked across several Tors (theres are the rocky outcrops at the top of hills) following a simple route out and back again - the weather wasnt hard on the navigating, no fog or low cloud and on the Saturday we even had, dare I say it SUN! Yes, Sun! I noticed several locals, panicked at this fiery orbs glow, sacrificing sheep and other unlucky animals to their dark Moorland Gods in the vain hope of warding off evil spirits but personally I found it a pleasant change - and I certainly enjoyed my squished corned dog (corned beef btw we English dont eat Dogs not knowingly anyway but what the food industry do is a mystery to us all) and sweet pickle sandwich all the more for its charming company.




A odd fact about the trip was that I had badly underestimated how much water to carry - I have no idea why as I usually plan for 2 litres a day per day but friday night the well simply ran dry. Fortunately the rain just kept on falling so I rigged up my basha to collect the water, and a few pine needles too (yep was in a pine forest) within a couple of hours I had 3 litres of water - all of which I boiled for those who are interested but in honesty it wasnt necessary. Had the weather been dry that might have proven a costly over sight however the Moors are disected by streams and the forestery block where I was on this occasion at least had a nice lake at the bottom of it. Water is heavy but worth its weight in gold when your thirst.





Apart from this everything else was ok - food wise it was fantastic and I compliment the chef ......... I reheated it expertly lol ......... One item that did impress me again was my ld LK70 that sack just seems to have grown onto me, its so comfortable I almost forget I'm wearing it. I'm planning on doing Mont Blanc or the TMB for my 50th birthday and keep thinking of buying a new sack but honestly I really cant see the point in changing it .......... A DILEMMA for another day.




OK so enough waffle - in summary Dartmoor is great, weather is Moorland weather i.e plan your trip for the season that suits you - there are wild camping areas interestingly so for the hiker this makes things a little more interesting both in the logistics and the route and always a lot more flexibility if tempered with common sense.




Personally, I will definately be back on the Moors and look forward to seeing them in every season.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings here ............ and if your still awake - heres a few pretty pictures ............






































My plan isnt to write a travelog - the route, I dont plan to share as I'd like to use it again and dont fancy sharing any of my stealth camps with others, all I will say is Dartmoor has a lot of potential for the outdoorsman and bushcrafter - the only way to experience it is to get out there yourself and explore.